Once Upon a Time‘s Swan Queen shippers are more diverse and enormous and powerful than any fandom I’ve ever encountered in my entire internet life, and I grew up in the heyday of Harry Potter fandom. In fact, Swan Queen fandom is so sprawling and so talented that I’ve been pretty terrified to cover it in Fan Fiction Friday for fear of leaving out something important. Also, I had no idea where to even start! In most fandoms, there’s a group of a dozen or so stories that make up the core of the femslash canon, but when it comes to Swan Queen, the limit does not exist. So let me thank Adriana, Stephanie, Jenn, Amber, Isabella, Jessica, Emily, Catherine, and Race for showing me the way. Behold 25 phenomenal Swan Queen fics. If I had a Time-Turner, this list would be 1,000 stories long!
Plot: Regina realizes she’s going to have to make some allies if she’s going to keep Henry safe and keep the Savior out of Stroybrooke.
Length: 69,000 words
When Regina opened her eyes, it took a moment to adjust to her surroundings. She wasn’t quite sure what she had expected, mostly because she hadn’t stopped to think through the possible outcomes, but she was a bit confused to find herself lying in her bed, clad in familiar pajamas. She didn’t waste time dwelling on it though, just jumping up out of bed, needing to see it the spell had worked as she planned.
She took a deep breath as she stood at her son’s bedroom door. No matter what she was about to see, Regina didn’t know if she could emotionally handle it. Again though, she just wasn’t in the mood to stall and worry. Instead, Regina pushed the door open slowly, her eyes immediately gaining moisture at the sight of her sleeping son, tucked under the covers. She covered her mouth as she slowly approached the bed, sitting carefully and pulling back the covers to see his face.
For a few moments she just sat, watching her son with tears in her eyes. All she hand wanted since the curse broke was to have her son backing his room and here he was, like nothing had ever happened. A smile suddenly overtook her face. It never happened. If the spell had worked like it should, there would be no Emma Swan. No savior. No Whit Knight. No birth mother to ruin her life.
Well not yet.
It was Emma’s fate to come to Storybrook and break the curse. Fate was a difficult thing to play with. Regina though, was always up for a challenge.
Plot: Emma and Regina are going to be roommates, for two nights only.
Length: 5,100 words
Henry talks with his whole body when he’s excited, and Emma can’t help but smirk at him from her place on one of the beds while he paces in front of the dresser. “Professor Mackey said it was great. One of his favorite creative theses, well, like, ever,” he pauses, eyes shining. “I mean, he was probably just saying that, but still!”
“I doubt he was ‘just saying’ that, Kid. Your mom and I both read your thesis. It was really freaking cool.” She grins at his enthusiasm. Her kid’s like basically a genius, maybe. Or at least, he’s totally awesome and super smart and dedicated and, although she never really tells him, she loves him pretty much more than anyone else in the world. “Isn’t that right, Regina?” she calls, raising her voice.
“There’s no need to shout, dear,” Regina comes out of the bathroom, still slipping the back onto her second earring. “And yes, baby,” she still has to stretch, even in her heels, to give him a kiss on the cheek. “We both loved your piece.”
Plot: 209,000 words
Length: Two emotionally wounded women healing from their pasts, finding each other in the present, and planning a future.
It’s Henry’s idea.
“I think we need to get her away from here,” he says almost casually as he drops himself down onto the stool in front of the breakfast bar. He’s frowning in the kind of thoughtful way that only a child his age can pull off. He looks hopeful, excited and a little pensive all at the same time. His dark brow is furrowed and she can almost see the wheels moving inside his head, each turning rapidly to connect with the next in order to bring together whatever his plan is.
“Who?” Emma asks almost lazily as she casually leans across the counter towards him. She hides a yawn behind the back of her hand, remembering for a brief moment years of not having to wake up so damned early in the morning because the majority of her job had taken place in the night hours.
She wouldn’t give up this – up Henry – for anything, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t sometime miss the simplicity of days before Storybrooke. The lonely days before she’d been sheriff and mother and daughter.
Plot: Post-season three, Emma finds herself completely alone.
Length: 48,000 words
Killian. She would have to do something about him eventually. They’d been limping along for too long now, mostly because she felt like being with him was what she should do, but it was becoming increasingly awkward that he felt a lot more for her than she felt for him. When they started out, she had thought that she might fall in love with him in time, but that never happened. They were great friends and had been good fuck-buddies, at least in the beginning, and she did love him in her own way, but it was never going to be more than that. True Love needed two people, not one who was really, really persistent and sure of it. They were in an off period just now, the result of a huge fight over Henry.
Hook had let him get drunk on rum, and Emma had reminded him that Henry was only fifteen and that Hook was not the boy’s step-father, and in fact had no real part in his life. That led to yet another fight about how Emma let Regina tell her what to do instead of Emma making her own decisions about Henry. Emma had ordered him out of the house, telling him not to return until he was ready to take back the accusation and apologise. That had been weeks ago, and she didn’t really miss Hook except as someone to have a beer with after work on the weeks when Henry was staying at Regina’s.
Regina Mills, Henry’s other mother. Another subject Emma didn’t want to think about at fuck-off o’clock.
Yawning again, she put her bowl down on the coffee table and let her head fall back against the couch. Now that her stomach was sated, she could afford a short nap before getting her son to school and heading into work and everyday life.
Plot: Emma is alone and afraid and desperate to be loved. So is Regina.
Length: 14,000 words
Regina Mills stared from her window at the figure in the darkness. This was the eighth time this had happened now, or maybe the ninth, because she wasn’t certain about the first night, whether her mind had been playing tricks on her or whether someone had been there. But there were definitely at least eight separate occasions in the past month and a half when Emma Swan had been sitting in the gazebo in Regina’s back yard, staring up at her bedroom window for hours on end. That was all Emma usually did: stand and stare and brood. Tonight, though, she was drinking a beer from the bottle, holding the neck between two fingers and tipping it backwards on a regular basis. Judging by the movement Regina had witnessed, she must be on her third in under an hour. In the dim light, all she could make out was Emma’s silhouette, but the magical connection between them—the one which Emma preferred not to acknowledge—allowed her to sense the other woman’s mood. It mirrored her own: a tight ache borne of repressed pain, disappointment and hurt.
Their stand-off had to come to an end soon, Regina knew, even if only for their son’s sake. Henry was upset by his mothers’ behaviour towards each other, and Regina could hardly admit that their ongoing enmity was based on their decisions to have sex with other people. Oh, they could dress it up as other things—Regina could pretend that she was upset about losing a soulmate, and Emma could grumble about being unfairly treated for saving a woman from death—but that wasn’t it. It was simple jealousy.
Plot: An AU will they/won’t they swerve set right after episode 117, “Hat Trick.”
Length: 42,000 words
Tinkerbell rolled her eyes, trying her best not to slap the Fairy standing in front of her. This confrontation was years in the making—she had thought about it, dreamt about it.
But, like so many things in her life, it wasn’t going at all as she had imagined.
“I’m afraid I’m quite serious, Green.”
“You’re telling me that’s the only way to get my wings back?”
“That’s how you lost them in the first place, isn’t it?” Blue questioned, in the condescending tone Tink remembered oh so well. “On your suicide mission, trying to help the Evil Queen?”
“Let’s be clear: I lost my wings because you took them away. And maybe, just maybe, Regina wouldn’t have become the Evil Queen if more people were willing to help her!”
“You lost your wings trying to find Regina’s soul mate—they will return when that task is complete. You were so determined to succeed before, I’m sure you won’t mind trying again.”
“Seriously?!” Tink repeated, even louder this time. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”
Plot: Emma and Regina are trapped in Storybrooke, looking for a way out.
Length: 19,000 words
There had always been something so grotesquely alluring to Regina about succumbing to that which would ultimately destroy her. It was the masochistic part of her personality; the part her mother made special care to develop so that she would have something to compliment her own sadistic ways. The love and acceptance Regina so desperately craved fell into step with the pain her mother convinced her she deserved, forcing her down a path paved with all the bad choices that Regina felt forever compelled to make.
This was one of them.
The pit of Regina’s stomach was burning, aching for an addiction she should have never begun to feed. Perfectly manicured nails dug into soft flesh and Regina arched her back, her mind growing hazy as she sought oblivion, needing to forget, even for a moment, how damaging this had all become. The woman on top of her possessed something she should have never been able to get within reach of, and now that she had touched it, Regina felt herself falling further into the madness that this stranger had brought with her to Storybrooke.
Plot: What if the dubious maintext and glorious subtext in season 3B switched places?
Length: 98,000 words
First they’re sitting at the table one evening after Henry’s vanished upstairs and Regina says, “So Hook finally wore you down.” It’s not an accusation (it can’t be an accusation when she’s in no position to accuse) but it sounds like one, and Emma gives her a dirty look and stares down at her pasta. Regina frowns and chooses her words with care. “I’m not criticizing your choices. Hook…has his appeal, but I’d have never thought you’d find true love with-“
And she can see from the way that Emma’s face darkens that she’s hit a nerve. “Why is it always true love with you people?” Emma demands, stabbing at her plate so violently that it tips to one side with a loud scrape against the table.
”So now there’s nothing between the first kiss and a lifelong commitment?” She glares up, defiant. “Hook makes sense, okay? I like him and Henry likes him and I think my dad has this weird boycrush on him and when I told my mom I was dating him, she nearly cried and talked about weddings for a half hour. They’re all happy. I’m happy.” A savage bite of baked ziti. “Why does it have to be more than that?”
Plot: Swan Queen road trip!
Length: 28,000 words
It was an idea only an idiot could come up with Regina had said, though she hadn’t disagreed with the plan, and half an hour into the drive Emma’s inclined to believe her. Regina sits stiffly in the passenger seat, handbag still perched on her lap and staring straight ahead, flinching every single time a car comes near them.
“Believe it or not, I’m actually an okay driver,” Emma says. It’s barely light out, the sun low in the sky and the omnipresent heat of summer not yet risen. There’ll be precious few hours where she doesn’t broil in the bug.
“Eyes on the road, dear,” Regina says in response. “And could we please change the music?”
“Driver picks the music,” Emma says as Taylor Swift sings “and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate” – what Emma is picking as her unofficial theme song of the road trip. “Shotgun shuts…”
“Shuts what?” There’s a dangerous lilt to Regina’s voice.
“Shotgun gets to pick in another hour?” Emma suggests weakly.
Plot: A non-magic AU set in NYC.
Length: 162,000 words
Women were strange in that way—always scanning one another, sizing one another up; often comparing themselves to others. It rarely could be helped.
Regina plastered on a smile and nodded as she took the outstretched hand and shook it firmly. “I am. How did you guess?”
“Your friend said you were some big business tycoon or something,” the blonde answered as she plopped heavily back down into her seat. “You’re the only person who’s come in here in the last fifteen minutes wearing anything even remotely expensive and looking all ‘shit-my-meeting-ran-late.'”
Regina arched an eyebrow at the young woman’s blunt speech but she could hardly help a chuckle from escaping as she lowered herself into the seat across from her. “Yes, I apologize about that,” she said honestly. “It has been a terribly busy day.”
“I’m sorry,” Regina said again, her cheeks turning a light shade of pink. “I just realized that I don’t even know your name.”
“Emma,” the blonde said with a smile. “Emma Swan.”
Plot: Young Princess Emma finds young Regina in her castle’s magical prison.
Length: 143,000 words
“Tell me a tale of the Evil Queen!” Emma squeaked excitedly from beneath the covers as her mother continued to stroke her hair soothingly. Snow’s expression contorted in discomfort very briefly before settling into a small, accepting smile. Emma almost always chose the topic of the infamous Evil Queen for her bedtime stories, and though it pained Snow to speak of her former step-mother’s misdeeds, she also suspected that Emma loved these stories specifically because of how close Snow was to them. Many of Snow’s stories about the Evil Queen included herself, and as trying as telling such stories could be, she loved the way Emma’s eyes always lit up upon hearing them. There was no denying a shining look such as that. So, she simply nodded and began a familiar tale, allowing the memories to wash over her and take her back to a time that now seemed like a lifetime ago, closing her eyes as she recalled the image of herself as a young child, calling for help from the back of a spooked and stampeding horse.
“And then she saved you, right Mother? The Evil Queen saved you from the wild horse!” Emma jumped into the story, providing the next phase of the tale excitedly. This had always been one of her favorite stories, the story of how the young Regina had saved her mother’s life so many years ago.
“Yes, love. She saved me, but that was before she became the Evil Queen, Emma. Then, she was simply Regina, a lovely young woman full of love and light and hope,” Snow answered her, sighing as a pang for the woman her former step-mother had once been rippled through her heart. She shook her head to chase away the memories and went back to stroking her child’s beautiful golden locks. She knew Emma would wish to talk more before finally succumbing to sleep, so she mentally prepared herself for the storm of comments and questions from her curious daughter that began nearly as soon as her own words had left her mouth.
Plot: Regina is very happy with her job in the white guard, until she gets assigned the thankless task of protecting Princess Emma.
Length: 27,000 words
The princess just glared at her. “You aren’t the boss of me.”
“Until you actually decide to take command, what’s stopping me?”
“You think you know everything, don’t you?”
“Well, I certainly know more than you at this point. That job you’ve been ‘raised for your whole life,’ well princess you’re not very good at it.
The princess stepped into her personal space again. “One word from me and you’re dead. Why aren’t you afraid?”
Regina just smiled. “Death is only a motivator for those who fear it. I haven’t feared death for a long time. Besides, Princess, the only one of us who is in real danger of being killed is you and I’m the only one standing between you and the arrow destined for your heart. I’m the best guard here, you might want to keep that in mind.”
The Princess continued to glare but stepped back and stalked towards the palace. Regina smiled and walked behind her. Well, perhaps this assignment would not be too horrendous. She could get used to arguing with the Princess and winning.
Plot: Regina and Emma send their kids back in time to protect them from Gold.
Length: 119,000 words
And, so, Emma reaches the end of the hall and opens the door to her bedroom. She takes in the familiar sight of Regina sitting up in bed, glasses on her nose, reading a book. The savior has spent the better part of their marriage insisting that her wife doesn’t need to wait up for her on nights like this, but she lost that battle years ago. I can’t sleep without you anyway, Regina always tells her.
Charlotte, unsurprisingly, is occupying the spot right next to the brunette. Usually their daughter is also awake and quite chatty—but tonight she is passed out with a movie still playing in the background.
Regina looks up and smiles. “Welcome home.”